Dalhousie University
Community Report
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Spotlight on Inclusion

Building a community of belonging

by Matt Reeder

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Alan Syliboy and Mark Austin have helped create a new tradition that intentionally embraces the diversity that makes us who we are today.

The New Dawn Staff of Place and Belonging was unveiled during the first Spring Convocation ceremony of 2019, replacing Dalhousie’s traditional mace.

The Staff was designed and crafted for Dal by artists Alan Syliboy of Millbrook First Nation and Mark Austin of Colchester County, with guidance from the university and in collaboration with a team of artists and craftspeople from communities across Nova Scotia.

“The key for us was to be inclusive, and we really did our best at trying to achieve that,” says Syliboy. “I think we have, starting with the four colours and four directions.”

“Recognizing diverse cultures that create this place, whether Dalhousie or Nova Scotia, is not about displacement; it’s about expanding the narrative,” explains Austin.

The artists hope the staff will continue to evolve through its use. “It’s not sacred or a symbol of authority. It’s a walking stick and sometimes things will break. Change them, repair them — make it organic and living,” Austin says. “I want [the community] to be able to look at it and say, ‘This is a fitting symbol of a place and time we shared.’”

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Focus on Inclusion